Evil Within Your Letterbox? There’s Options For That Now

An evil letterbox.

Adam thought The Evil Within was a fine game, but that its letterboxed screen size was a hindrance – a technique that would have been best used sparingly, rather than for the entire length of the game. Rich Stanton thought that the technique was well deployed, increased tension and was never put towards creating cheap jump-scares. Parts of the internet, meanwhile, thought that the black bars were probably a technical fault rather than a deliberately-employed artistic technique.

Whatever you think, you’ll have now have to make a choice: a patch has just been released that lets you turn the black bars off, change the frames-per-second cap between either 30 or 60, and other tweaks.

Bethesda and Tango Gameworks had previously detailed the debug commands that would allow you to tweak these settings yourself, but it’s significant that they’re now options available in the game proper. I find the debate over technical issues in games tiring, but I do like thinking about the blurry lines between authorial intent and where players should be able to interject themselves into the design of something.

In the article linked above, Rich makes a good case for Shinji Mikami – the lead on Evil Within, plus Resident Evils 1 and 4 – as a designer who makes every decision carefully and with a specific intent. Does that mean everything in the game is his vision, and shouldn’t be touched? Or should players be able to choose between The One True Canonical Option and mucking about with thousands of variable, a la Skyrim and its many mods?

I dunno!

Here’s the full list of things you can now fiddle with:

  • Frame lock settings added
  • In settings, you can now toggle between a 30 FPS and 60 FPS cap
  • Letterbox setting
  • UI toggle to disable the letterbox bars
  • Fixes gameplay issues when running at >30 FPS
  • Fixes for visual issues associated with removing letterbox framing
  • Achievements now work when console is enabled
  • Fix for game starting in windowed mode on first run
  • Minor localization fixes

Thanks, Eurogamer.

27 Comments

  1. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    I like the choice of aspect ratios in PC because one can easily choose between one or another, or at least that’s how it should be.

    Dictatorial Me would instead force every single movie and blue-ray release ( or remastered ) to be forced at 16:9. Standards can be bad for freedom but they do have their uses aswell, and i’m pretty tired of watching 5 different movies with 5 different aspect ratios. It’s not good, really, artistic choice or not black bars are awful, other than effectively transforming your 27 incher into a 19-ish and wasting resolution with black pixels.

    I don’t see a point in this “Full HD” market craze when a lot of media is still constrained by this crap of the past, when every camera tried to push it’s own format and had it’s own technical reasons or limitations. This shouldn’t be a problem anymore.

    Meanwhile an artist isn’t worth anything if he/she can’t work with a something that may be outside his/her confort zone. Camera makers should start first, artists will follow and the results will be great, if they are.

    TL;DR If you don’t work in 16:9 you still provide it as an option, otherwise go out. If it’s a game with different ratios, go ahead, but don’t lock any of them. Mussolini-me has spoken.

    • Ross Angus says:

      Kubrick shot Eyes Wide Shut in 3:4 so that his shot composition would not be messed with, when the film turned up on TV. Then wide-screen TVs turned up.

      I think visual ideas can be strong enough to survive an aspect ration change.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Couldn’t have found a better example myself. He would have shot it in 16:9 if he knew it was going to be the end-all standard for movies/multimedia. That’s why it needs to happen.

        Nothing wrong with 21:9 screens though, useful for work or nice for games that have such options. The irony is that that they still can’t match some even larger movie aspects though. Can’t escape those bars.

      • iainl says:

        That’s not true, however. Kubrick had a weird insistence that the TV versions of his films should be released at 4:3, and shot with an open matte so the film could be given a soft matte to the correct 1.85:1 or 1.66:1 framing he actually wanted later. This can be seen in the Taschen release of the Kubrick Archive’s notes for The Shining, and elsewhere.

        Eyes Wide Shut was released in cinemas in 1.85:1; this is the correct framing. If he wanted an Academy release he could have got one – the same year’s The Blair Witch Project had Academy framing, for example.

  2. Gesadt says:

    eh i guess im the only one who didnt mind letterbox whatsoever, after first 15min its just fine. also frame unlock made animations and movement all weird, with a gamepad 30 fps is also fine.

    • Dale Winton says:

      I thought it was fine also but after playing it for a bit last night I prefer it full screen

  3. GameCat says:

    I don’t get at all that letterbox screen outrage.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Lack of options, in no way different than many other complaints at many other games. Some people just don’t want devs to breach some basic guidelines of user agency.

      Bad practices always become a trend if not dealt with, i think we already have many crap flying around with preorder bonuses and the disappearance of basic options. The list is obviously longer but you get the idea.

    • iainl says:

      People get angry enough that films aren’t shot to fill their TV screen. They’re hardly going to accept the idea of artistic preferences in a videogame.

      Just ignore them; they’re not worth it and will go away soon enough.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Hypocrisy. You either protect the “Artistic intent” or you don’t. Artists get a lot of flack when their free expression offends someone or when they portray difficult topics, suddenly they shouldn’t be free anymore.

        You’re not worth anything as an artist if you can’t work within different boundaries and requests, it’s as easy as that.

        • Bassen_Hjertelos says:

          The concept of free artistic expression is a myth. There are boundaries, legal and moral, as to what an artist can/is allowed to do.

          Personally, I think the idea that aspect ratio has or should have anything to do with artistic intent is a bit far fetched. Back in the old days, before wide screen, the directors had no trouble making grand films. Metropolis had an aspect ratio of 1.33 : 1 (close to 4 : 3).

          I rarely see directors go on about aspect ratios as these game devs do. If they can’t make it interesting without having the perfect hardware setup, it’s just bad design.

          • iainl says:

            You only don’t hear film directors talking about preserving the aspect ratio they shot for because the arguments about pan and scan were largely won 17 years ago when DVD launched.

            Different films are shot with different framings because the director and DoP make a conscious choice what to use. For example, Spielberg shot Jurassic Park at 1.85:1 (i.e. “flat” because it’s projected with a circular lens) because he wanted to convey the height of the dinosaurs, and Saving Private Ryan is that shape to better fit the documentary style he uses in the action scenes. Minority Report and Jaws are Scope/anamorphic because the events use a horizontal movement.

        • iainl says:

          Whether or not you’re a misogynist who likes to fixate the camera leeringly on Megan Fox’s bum is a rather different sort of artistic expression than shooting a film for the cinema rather than a TV owner who wants all his screen’s pixels to be lit up.

  4. golem09 says:

    I just started playing Skyrim again (Thanks to you and your survival week), and the enb I decided on had optional letterboxes enabled on default. I played a while with it, and quite like it, no clue why.

  5. XhomeB says:

    Is the game as linear and action-oriented as I’m hearing it is?

    • Al Bobo says:

      It’s exactly as linear and actionery as you imagine. Zero scares. I enjoyed playing it alot.

      • felisc says:

        I found it quite scary, I was tense during many parts of the game. Not that actiony as I stealthed my way through as much as I could. Different experiences, eh !

    • Gesadt says:

      its 2014 version of re4, so yes

  6. Frosty Grin says:

    It’s weird that they couldn’t have these options on release. Didn’t expect the demand? Or just didn’t care?

  7. Synesthesia says:

    As long as games are treated like burgers, yeah, people will feel the authority to get angry and offended at directorial intent. It’s a bit of a shame imho.

    • Gargenville says:

      I kind of sympathize with the whiners because most PC monitors are tiny and you feel the loss of that letterboxed-out screen real estate a lot more keenly than you would on a TV-sized display, but at the same time I would have loved it if Bethesda/Tango’s response had been ‘piss off it’s supposed to look like this’.

      I also don’t know where the notion of Mikami’s supposed meticulous attention to detail came from, dude’s no Yu Suzuki.

  8. Herabek says:

    Is this letterbox fix the same as the console command ‘fix’? All that did was zoom in so that you got a cropped image of the previous letter boxed image- in case the FOV wasn’t restricted enough. What happened was you effectively got two more bars on the sides, and then it just zoomed in on that. That’s not a solution. The solution was to render the pixels previously hidden by the letter boxing.

    Yes, it did make the game more tense and challenging, but in a really obvious and irritating way, it certainly didn’t feel like it was immersive, it was just a constant distraction, only got a few hours in before I decided I would wait for Hayden to create a fix in Flawless Widescreen.

  9. rcguitarist says:

    That wasn’t so hard now was it? Next time what will you do? That’s right, develop a game properly. Now run along and play with your friends….but stay away from that Ubisoft kid…he’s no good.

  10. DanMan says:

    I find the debate over technical issues in games tiring

    Me too. They should just get their act together and release proper software. All of them.

  11. Frosty Grin says:

    And now there is a demo on Steam.

    • pepperfez says:

      It’s…it’s like they know how PC games work. I didn’t think anyone knew that anymore.